It’s been an emotional week. On Sunday evening I arrived back from LA. On Monday, we got up to find my dog, who was old and had been struggling with nerve damage in his back and hips for a while now, had got himself into an awkward position and no amount of trying could get him up.
I called the vet, sent my teen off to school and waited. I knew we had only days with him but the vet’s diagnosis was that our old fellow had most likely slipped a disc and had little or no sensation in the back half of his body. We took the decision that it was the right moment to end his life.
I held my dear sweet boy as he went, first, to sleep with a sedative, and then as his heart stopped and the life slipped from him. He seemed peaceful and, as always, he looked at me with complete trust and friendship.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been with someone, or an animal, at that point of death?
We can feel, almost see, the life evaporating out of the body.
It reminded me of breathing air in and out of our lungs, What comes from the atmosphere, returns to the atmosphere. Dust to dust we used to say at funerals, but it feels more like life to life. My lovely boy’s life energy returning to the greater life energy, to come back in some other form.
I’m not necessarily being literal; I’m describing how it feels (how it felt to me in that moment). We makes sense of god, spirit, or the great big nothingness in our own way. Whatever you believe, for sure there is a difference between life and death.
It’s OK to be Sad
This dog has been with us since the children were small and we mourned and mourned him all week. Many tears were shed.
Later in the week I had a call with someone I buddy coach with.
I’m experiencing you as very sad,
she said, and offered to sit with it, maybe talk about self-care.
I am sad. But that’s OK.
It seems to me that we don’t do that well with sadness, depression and the range of emotions that fall at the ‘negative’ end of the spectrum.
Why is that?
If we choose to have pets, it’s very likely we will experience their death before ours. It’s simple maths.
I talked about this with my 17 year-old. We don’t have to *not* feel the emotion — what would life be without loss.
We’ve cried and cried this week, and we’ve also laughed at all the antics our dog got up to, all the fun we had shared together. That reminiscing, surely, is a normal part of life?
Yes, we have a hole in our hearts in this moment — most likely we always will when we think of him.
But, our capacity for love doesn’t diminsh.
I don’t know whether we’ll get another dog. Or, maybe, I should say I have a sense we will get another dog, I’m just not sure when(!)
The love doesn’t go away — because when we talk about love we are talking about life itself — it’s what’s all around us, it’s what we are made of.
The feeling of love we have for our old boy is coming from the very essence of the presence of life itself.
And, when the new guy or girl comes along, we will open up a new space and fill it with even more love.
Love is Infinite
I remember when I had my second child someone said to me,
It’s strange, we think we we are full up with love for our first child, that there is no space for more love, and then the second one comes along and our hearts simply expand and more love pours in.
Love is infinite, and the more we experience it, the more it will multiply.
And, from time to time, we need to mark the passing of the form that love takes with a deep, deep sadness.
About the author
Cathy Presland is an expert in transformative leadership. She has more than two decades of experience in government and international organisations and her focus as a coach is to support impact-driven individuals and organisations to improve their performance and leadership so that they can make more of a difference with the work they do. Find out more at https://cathypresland.com